You should use your laptop for minutes: here’s why

Profit, workflow, laptop.

Are you using a laptop, yet, to take minutes? I hope the answer is yes. However, if it’s no, let me convince you. Taking minutes using a laptop is better than the traditional approach of pen and paper.

I realize that for many people there is some fear about using a laptop. It’s a relatively new approach and it has a learning curve. However, the pros of using a laptop far outweigh the cons.

Speed. As admins, we type quickly. I am very confident that all of us can type faster than we write. We know where the keys are, and we don’t have to watch our fingers on the keyboard.  Shorthand hasn’t been taught in schools for almost 30 years, so the number of admins who can still take shorthand, is extremely low. And shorthand is about the only thing that’s faster than typing; typing is a lot faster, and therefore often more accurate, than using a pen and paper.

Ease. When our eyes are up, we can more easily follow the conversation (and see the reactions of everyone as well, as know who is saying what). We will, therefore, be more engaged in the conversation, we’ll have a fuller understanding of the subject matter, and our retention rate for the information will be better. That alone makes taking the minutes much easier. Not only that, but we’ll be more aware of what’s happening in our department, our company and our industry, and we’ll retain that knowledge longer. And that will just make us better admins.

Productivity. You can create a template before the meeting, so you can literally just fill in the blanks as the meeting happens. Many admins use the meeting agenda, leaving extra room to take notes. I like to use a template prepopulated with the date, the names of the attendees, and then room for actions and discussions. And if it’s a recurring meeting, you can likely just use the previous meeting’s minutes as your starting point. Talk about a time-saver!

Engagement. When we’re using a pen and paper, our eyes are on the page to ensure we are writing in a straight line, or staying on the page. It is extremely hard to take notes on paper while watching the conversation. When your eyes are on your page, you are less engaged, you’re missing the body language of the other attendees, and you’re more likely to let your mind wander.

Efficiency. The biggest impact, however, isn’t in how quickly we type. Using a laptop is, overall, far more efficient. When we’re creating minutes directly on a laptop we’re saving time because after it the minutes are in the computer, we don’t have to retype everything—it’s already there.

Through teaching my Minute Taking Made Easy program, I’ve discovered that the aspect of minute-taking that most people hate the most is not the actual taking of the minutes. It’s the roll-up from rough copy to final copy.

If your rough copy is on paper, you will have to take the time to input your notes into your computer. When you’re using a laptop to take the minutes, that step is already being done during the meeting. That is a huge time-saver.

When you are using your laptop, the total start-to-finish time in terms of completing the roll-up of your minutes is cut in half. That’s right, half, vs using a pen and paper. Assuming that the roll-up is about a two-hour job for a typical one-hour meeting, it becomes less than an hour when you’ve used your laptop during the meeting. As admins, we are all aware that any time we can save time, we need to.

Another reason to use your laptop for minutes is that you’ll be embracing technology. Admins have to use technology for everything; it’s part of our job. We need to keep our technical skills current. Current technology is laptop-based. Admins should always be at the forefront of new technology in any office, the go-to person when it comes to software and using technology.

Assume you’re applying for a new job and the question of taking minutes comes up. When they ask you if you use a laptop and you say no, what message will that send your potential employer?

Saying you still use a steno pad and pen is similar to saying that you still use a manual typewriter, because you’re more comfortable with it. It gets the job done, certainly, but the message is that you are afraid of change. Don’t be afraid of change.

There are some negatives to using a laptop, but they are easily rectified.

Noise. If you don’t like the sound your keyboard makes (the click-click-click can occasionally be distracting to meeting participants), you can buy a keyboard skin. See my link here to Amazon where you can purchase one for your specific type of laptop. The sleeve will also allow you to clean your keyboard much more easily (we all know that keyboards are magnets for germs).

You can also sit a little bit back from the meeting participants. Not too far, but just far enough so you’re not disturbing anyone with your keyboarding. Try it out before the meeting—that way you’ll know if you need to bring in an extra chair (one without arms, for instance, if that’s what you prefer) and you’ll know how loud your keyboard is. It probably isn’t as disturbing to others as you think, by the way. If you’re really shy about it, just ask the person next to you if it bothers them. Chances are, they won’t even have heard your keyboard clicks.

Temptation. Because you will be far more efficient when using a laptop, you may be tempted to stray during the meeting, to check your email or to multi-task. But you’re a professional, and you can resist that urge. Disconnect from the internal intranet before you go into the meeting, and force yourself not to multi-task. Stay with the meeting and with what’s going on—you’re not a teenager any more (probably) and you don’t have to have anyone watching over your shoulder to keep you focused. If you do find that you need to multi-task (some meetings are pretty boring, after all), use that urge to clean up the minutes you’re working on. Then, when the meeting’s over, you really won’t have much to do except distribute them.

The reality is that if you haven’t already switched to using your laptop for minutes, you probably have a good reason. Just make sure that reason isn’t an excuse: fear of change.

And if there’s no good reason why you haven’t starting using a laptop for minutes—what are you waiting for? There are so many great reasons why you should make the switch. You’ll be glad you did.

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6 thoughts on “You should use your laptop for minutes: here’s why”

  1. I always use a laptop for minute taking now. It was my boss’s idea and I was really nervous to start with. Couldn’t do it any other way now. I do type into just a blank word doc and take it from there. I just found that way easier. And yes it is so much quicker after the meeting.
    I also disconnect from intranet so I can’t check emails as I am easily distracted. Plus if the network crashes I still have my saved notes.
    All I need are suggestions to avoid the 2.00pm zone out in an all day meeting!

  2. I’ve been taking minutes on my laptop for several years now – a bit of a learning curve at first but I like it for all the reasons you’ve mentioned, and more. I do keep my e-mail open during meetings and staff know they can e-mail me if they urgently need to contact a senior manager who is in the meeting. It is much less disruptive than receiving a phone call or knock on the door. At Board meetings I can easily access electronic documents that the Board may unexpectedly need, do a quick Google search, or get messages from Board members who are running late. Be sure to save your minutes in two places before shutting down the computer, which I learned the hard way after my computer crashed and I lost the Board minutes I had just taken…

  3. I type on the laptop too. I copy the agenda items to the minutes template and the minutes are ready to be checked within a couple of hours by the Chair. So much easier than the traditional paper and pen and sometimes can’t reading our own writing. I also bullet point on the hard copy just in case of power failure or computer crash. Works well every time.

  4. I use my ipad with keyboard and type my notes on ‘Evernote.’ When I’m done, I log on to Evernote on my PC at my desk and the minutes are just as I typed them – I can edit and format much easier from there. I get my minutes done the same afternoon as I took them! iPad or Laptop – beautiful machines!

  5. I think sometimes it depends on the meeting. I’m the Board Coordinator for our 6 hospital community board. I sit at the table and have to be very focused on the voting and credentialing discussions. I use a template – but it’s written. I don’t use my laptop for these meetings as it can be distracting.

    However, for other meetings, I do use my laptop. I gauge it by my role in the meeting.

    Great article!

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